Ritchey WCS Echelon Pedals

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In my experience, more than any other component found on a bicycle, pedals elicit a near-religious loyalty among users. It may be that because cleat design will remain static to a degree that even the number of cogs on a cassette will not, people have more years of use on a system and are more likely to develop less a preference than an accustom. We tend to like those things we’ve used for long periods of time. After all, if we didn’t like them, we would have switched, so the longer we use them, the more we tend to think what we’re using is the best thing going.

Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, if you like what you use, and it poses no problems for you, why not continue to use it?

It is into this particular world of settled opinion and calcified satisfaction that I thrust the Ritchey Echelon WCS pedals. The challenge is that pedals accepting the Look cleat have been around since shoulder pads were the hot look in women’s fashions. Good thing they have a greater functional benefit.

In addition to Look, we’ve had Shimano, Wellgo, Campagnolo, Sampson and a score of other manufacturers make pedals designed to accept the Look cleat. Had it not been for Time, and Shimano’s ill-advised decision to take the SPD platform to the road, Look might have become the industry standard. But not only is that three-bolt fixing standard still in play, the cleat itself remains mostly unchanged.

It begs the question: What has changed in all that time? Okay, so the cleat went from black to red, meaning from fixed to floating. The Keo cleat also reduced the stack height between the center of the pedal spindle and the foot. Most manufacturers have increased both the number and the quality of the bearings used. Spring release tension is adjustable (has been for, oh … at least 20 years). The pedal body shape has been refined to increase lean-angle clearance. And let’s not forget weight. Some early examples (Mavic, anyone?) might as well have been constructed from depleted plutonium so heavy were they.

For six months I’ve been riding a range of pedals: the Ritchey Echelons as well as a couple of others, including the new Shimano Dura-Ace 9000s. While the Shimano cleat is slightly different than the Look Keo, I consider them of a piece; they’re not fundamentally different, the way Time and Speedplay are.

By any critical measure, these pedals are reasonably light, weighing in at 250 grams. Unfortunately, Ritchey claims they weigh only 233g, which makes this the first Ritchey product I’ve encountered that strayed from the advertised weight by more than five percent. Still, 250g for the pedals, combined with 77g for the cleats one of the lightest pedal systems on the market for less than $200. This is where the Echelons show best—value. At just $159 for the set with cleats and hardware, they are more than $100 less than the corresponding Shimanos (not to mention a few other competitors.

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The Echelons use a two bearings: an outer, sealed-cartridge bearing, and a needle bearing in the middle. Inboard duties are handled by a lightweight bushing. Spring tension is adjustable, and while I didn’t check torque values, I can say anecdotally, it goes from light enough for a panicked escape to grab-a-stop-sign-cuz-I’m-falling-over tight.

Having ridden in so many different pedals of late, I came to only one firm conclusion on the subject of pedals using Look-style cleats. Because of where I live, which is to say a place where there are stop lights and stop signs for 30 miles in every direction except west, I stop like a sitcom has ads. It’s annoying, but it’s a fact of my life. What surprised me about the Echelon pedals was that I eventually noticed I was able to catch the tongue of the cleat more reliably with them than with any similar pedal. There are lights that are just too long to track stand through at the end of a long ride, so I want a pedal that allows me to roll away from a light with something approaching haste. If I have to stop pedaling and look down for a moment, that’s a fail.

One factor that contributes to the success or failure of a pedal in this regard isn’t so much the weight of the pedal but the weight delta from the front of the pedal to the rear of the pedal. The greater that delta, the more likely a pedal is to hang, rather than spin due to bearing drag. A tiny amount of bearing drag will cause the pedal to sit motionless until the pedal reaches the top of the pedal stroke, the point at which most riders will attempt to clip the second foot in. That pause will cause the rear end of the pedal to overcome the bearing drag and spin forward. Practically speaking, it means often putting your foot down on the bottom of the pedal, rather than engaging it. Not good for quick getaways. I’ll hasten to add that I had to ride each pedal for more than 500 miles to make sure that I wasn’t just encountering drag from the bearing seal.

It’s this one, tiny little detail that caused me to love this pedal. If I lived 50 miles outside of Cedar Rapids, with corn fields surrounding my home, different story. Add in the fact that it costs less than a night in a nice hotel, and you’ve got one of my favorite pedals of the last few years.

 

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24 comments

  1. Dan

    Compare these to the Time Xpresso pedals and you’ll honestly see these pedals are inferior in every manner. Far lighter for a similar price, too.

  2. WV Cycling

    I’ve had the Ritchey Peloton pedals (standard look cleat; prior to these look-keo ones) since 2008. I thought they were overpriced, but I wanted my pedals to match my Ritchey seatpost, stem, and handlebar.

    They’ve lasted, but are pretty beaten up. Their Eschelon pedals came out in 2009 or 2010… and I don’t believe the price has gone down. The pedals are above the quality of the Xpedo Thrust NXS pedals which bear an uncanny resemblance to this pedal, but not enough to justify the $50 price increase.

    Their pedals are one if the few things that I classify as being overpriced. I believe it is because they have to pay an exorbitant licensing fee to the actual manufacturer of these pedals.

    Do I love them? Yes. Will I buy them? When they’re in Nashbar’s catalog.

  3. Patrick

    Which are the most consistent to clip into quickly? I’m getting tired of the Shimanos. (In my mind anyways,) I’m using the same motion to clip into them, which works great the first six times. But that 7th time, I’d think I was trying to clip a rollerskate into the pedal. I imagine it looks about that graceful as well.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Patrick: That’s what I was referring to toward the end of the review. The Ritcheys have proved to be very quick to clip into, at least among Look-style cleats.

  4. NSA

    Dear Sir, could you please tell us more about the depleted plutonium, as well as this “Mavic” organization?

    8-))

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium

  5. Patrick

    Padraig, you were clear about that, and I did see that at the end of the review. I could have instead asked, are these the easiest pedals you’ve ever clipped into of this cleat style, are there any other models (like the above mentioned Time’s) that compare or best to the Ritcheys? But it sounds like these are about the easiest you’ve ever ridden.

    I’m okay with giving up some grams in pedal weight if they flawlessly clip in every time — my rides also start and end with multitudes of stop signs and red lights.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The absolute easiest clip-in I’ve ever experienced was the Speedplay X. Easier than the Speedplay Zeros, easier that SPD, than any Look variant, etc. Flawless, basically.

  6. Les Borean

    Speedplay all the way for me. Riding the Zeros presently.

    Is there a disadvantage of the X compared to the Zeros? Is there a price exacted for that ease of clip-in?

  7. Geoff

    Padraig,

    Have you ever had any experience with Keywin pedals? I would be very interested to hear your take on them if you have. If not, grab a pair for review.

    Geoff

  8. Dan C

    Time iclics for me. A fitter tried to put me in some Speedplays once and I couldn’t for the life of me click in to them things. I am looking for a new pedal system since Time CANNOT make a cleat that holds up.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Geoff: No matter how many changes they make to the Keywins, I gotta admit, I can’t stand them.

      Bigwagon: SPD wasn’t a good fit for the road because back then soles weren’t stiff enough and everyone could feel the flex and most developed hotspots right where the cleat mounted. The fact that SPD-R is essentially nonexistent at this point is proof positive.

  9. Tom in albany

    So, Padraig. Based on your recommendation, I’m going to try a set of these. They’re in my price range. My old Look pedals are from ’99 and pretty much shot. We’ll see how these go. Any idea how much I should drop my seat because of the lower profile? I’m assuming it’s a few millimeters at most? I’ll let you know how I like them.

  10. Max

    After the pedal axle pulled out of one of my Ritchey pedals on the first out of the saddle effort on my very first ride and it subsequently took Ritchey two months and several phone calls to send me a replacement, I will never buy another pedal from that company. The pedals were light, nice-looking, and easy to clip into though.

  11. Ron

    I’ve been wanting to try, and have been encouraged by riding pals, Speedplay pedals. But, with numerous shoes and bikes, I’m sticking with LOOK pedals. Been on them since I went clipless on the road.

    I have some 1st generation Keo 2 Maxs. They don’t rotate AND they’ve developed a clicking in the left pedal, I think a bearing issue. I don’t have any LBSs that swap the spindles and LOOK won’t warranty them because I guess I ordered through a UK dealer who isn’t supposed to ship to the U.S.

    Just picked up some lightly used Keo Blades in 16nM release. Only a few rides but digging them.

  12. Mateo

    Last year I got them, esthetics and more importantly, facility to clip-in were main factors. Unfortunately, they do have a problem that made me ditch them few weeks after first use.
    I mount the cleats as far back as possible on the sole, which in case of Ritchey cleats exposed the screws ever so slightly, but enough to dig into aluminium body of the pedals. 20km later I had deep grooves that made the shoe rock in the pedal.

    Back to Look Keo Max Carbon now, but I do miss the easy clip-in….

  13. wayno

    Padraig – how does the contact platform compare vs the shimanos? I like the wide stable platform of the Shimanos, these look a little narrower, can you feel the difference in stability?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Wayno: I didn’t feel any difference in platform size. Part of that is due to shoe soles being stiffer than they used to be but also that I really don’t think there is a big difference in cleat contact area.

  14. George Straz

    Fwiw, I got a full knee replacement in 2000. I rode in Shimano’s until 2009. After increasing my mileage (gradually) to 12000/yr, the plastic/titanium knee started to get unusually sore. Someone posted that they eliminated the same problem by switching to Speedplay Zero’s. Glad I did!

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